While Ms. Hamilton’s boss is understanding when she occasionally calls in sick because she’s exhausted, “I do struggle with how I phrase it so that I’m not lying,” she says. “I don’t want to say my mother is sick…if that’s not the case.” Instead, she is brief and straightforward: “I’m not feeling well enough to come in today.”
Many supervisors say they appreciate and respect a simple statement that an employee is too ill to work. Giving too many graphic details, or trying too hard to sound sick with “a very artistic fake cough, or saying, ‘Oh, I have such a headache I can hardly talk,’” can spark suspicions that an employee is lying, says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources for CareerBuilder, a hiring-consulting firm in Chicago.
I am not very good at not working when I am sick, but I know better than to go into the office if I’m feeling absolutely terrible. The Wall Street Journal looks at “the art of calling in sick,” and says that young workers in particular often try to prove how driven they are by showing up to work when they’re not well, and then are sent home because one highly contagious person can quickly bring down an entire office. Also, I believe it’s becoming more normal to “e-mail in sick” these days, which saves you from having to make convincing sick noises when calling in for a sick day.
Even crazier are employers who “encourage sick people to come to work [by] offering cash or gifts for perfect attendance.” I mean, that’s just terrible!
Here is a note Choire sent me when he heard that I wasn’t feeling so great the other day:
“GO HOME AND DRINK SOME HOT LEMON-WATER OR THE JUICE OF ONE ONION OR WHATEVER WITCH REMEDY YOU LIKE, AS LONG AS IT INVOLVES ONIONS, GARLIC OR GINGER AND LEMONS. AND THEN SLEEP.”